Are Surveys of Experts Unbiased? Evidence from College Football Rankings
Justin M. Ross
Indiana University - School of Public & Environmental Affairs
Sarah E. Larson
Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA)
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
April 4, 2011
Contemporary Economic Policy, Forthcoming
Indiana University-Bloomington: School of Public & Environmental Affairs Research Paper Series No. 2011-04-01
Policy makers are frequently interested in soliciting unbiased information regarding alternative policies, and expert surveys can be influential. Since ranking policies is an often subjective process, there is always the concern of bias, both intentional and not. Expert bias is difficult to discern in the policy world, but surveys of expert opinion are compiled and "tested" for accuracy weekly in college football, allowing for hypothesis testing. While previous research has used college football rankings to determine the ability of surveys to incorporate relevant information, this paper examines the Associated Press and American Football Coaches' Association rankings for evidence of systematic bias. Specifically, more than 1,300 games from the 2003 to 2008 regular seasons are tested for factors that are systematically correlated with upsets. Both polls predict the winner nearly 80 percent of the time, and though there is evidence of systematic conference bias, correcting the rankings would only improve the accuracy of the polls by about 1 percent. There is no evidence of a bias favoring "big market" teams, nor teams that have strong journalism programs or are from the East Coast.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: College Football, Bias, Expert Judgment, Crowd Wisdom
JEL Classification: D4, L83
Date posted: April 5, 2011 ; Last revised: July 22, 2011
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